ISSUES OF FAITH: Advent signals the coming of Jesus

YOU MIGHT HAVE never heard of Sean Parker, but you probably use his product.

Parker is Facebook’s founding president.

In a recent story on Axios.com, Parker had this to say.

“The thought process that went into building Facebook was all about ‘How do we consume as much of your time and conscious attention as possible?’

“That means we need to give you a little dopamine hit once in a while, because someone liked or commented on a post or a photo. …

“It’s a social-validation feedback loop … exploiting a vulnerability in human psychology.

“God only knows what it’s doing to our children’s brains.”

This didn’t seem to bother the billionaire Parker as he went on to say how rich this has made him.

Meanwhile, the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) reports that suicides are at a 40-year high for teen girls and teen boys are rising, too.

What to make of this?

You don’t have to be a genius to see the disconnection that is creeping into our society. After all, it is much easier to text something difficult to someone than to talk to them in person.

People consider it “old fashioned” to expect to communicate with someone face-to-face, or verbally, and there is a level of anxiety that you don’t have just pressing your fingers to letters on your phone — the text.

But there is something about looking into someone else’s eyes that can’t be replaced, be it a happy ending or not.

It’s what unites us as human beings, this window into our soul.

And it’s what is gradually decreasing in our culture and society as the screen becomes our new best friend.

If you need more studies to show that social media is connected to anxiety and depression, they are out there.

If this was a drug in a bottle then Congress would probably be having hearings on it, but it’s as addictive as any drug with the predictable results with us, and among us.

Now for the good news.

It is Advent, signaling the coming of Jesus.

He “gets it.”

Jesus understands, and he has come offering a better way.

A more peaceful way.

He is a light that shines in the darkness, and the darkness cannot overcome it (John).

Think about that — Jesus is a light that darkness cannot deal with and overcome.

The light is transcendent, powerful, relentless, beautiful.

The angel Gabriel spoke to Mary, and told her to not be afraid, and the light was born, and the Word became flesh.

Mary brings us closer to Jesus, her son.

You can speak to Mary about anything, and you will be comforted, but as at Cana and the wedding feast, she will guide you to her son.

Why?

“Do whatever he tells you,” she has said, and will say again.

This Advent season, as always, there are many people in dire need.

This need is less about “things” than about love, joy and hope.

Think of the Holy Family and the meaning of the Savior being born in a stable.

“Whatever you did to the least brothers of mine, you did for me” (Matthew 25:40).

Jesus is telling us something about being born among the animals, namely, that we all have value, that we are all an idea of God, that God doesn’t make mistakes, although sometimes we do.

Sometimes when we run into random people or speak with someone off the beaten path, it is for a reason that God only knows; but we should never take these encounters lightly.

As Mother Teresa once observed that Jesus comes to us in “distressing disguise.”

Perhaps our only job is a kind word, and an ear to listen.

We will leave this page with the words of George Bailey played by Jimmy Stewart, posted on his office wall, in the movie “It’s a Wonderful Life.”

“All you can take with you is that which you’ve given away.”

_________

Issues of Faith is a rotating column by five religious leaders on the North Olympic Peninsula. Mike Acheson is director of religious education at Queen of Angels Roman Catholic Church in Port Angeles and St. Joseph Parish in Sequim.

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